The initial reaction of Theodore Sorensen, the President's Special Counsel and "alter ego," fell somewhere between that of the President and his brother. Like the President, Sorensen felt the poignancy of betrayal. If the President had been the architect of the policy which the missiles punctured, Sorensen was the draftsman. Khrushchev's deceitful move demanded a strong 1 Hilsman, op. cit., p. 195. "O Ibid. "' Weintal and Bartlett, op. cit., p. 67; Abel, op. cit., p. 53. 112 Schlesinger, op. cit., p. 803. counter-move. But like Robert Kennedy, Soren- sen feared lest the shock and disgrace lead to dis- aster. To the Joint Chiefs of Staff the issue was clear. Now was the time to do the job for which they had prepared contingency plans. Cuba I had been badly done; Cuba II would not be. The missiles provided the occasion to deal with the issue: cleansing the Western Hemisphere of Castro's Communism. As the President recalled on the day the crisis ended, "An invasion would have been a mistake-a wrong use of our power. But the military are mad. They wanted to do this. It's lucky for us that we have McNamara over there."1"3 McCone's perceptions flowed from his con- firmed prediction. As the Cassandra of the inci- dent, he argued forcefully that the Soviets had installed the missiles in a daring political probe which the United States must meet with force. The time for an air strike was now.114 The Politics of Choice. The process by which the blockade emerged is a story of the most sub- tle and intricate probing, pulling, and hauling; leading, guiding, and spurring. Reconstruction of this process can only be tentative. Initially the President and most of his advisers wanted the clean, surgical air strike. On the first day of the crisis, when informing Stevenson of the mis- siles, the President mentioned only two alterna- tives: "I suppose the alternatives are to go in by air and wipe them out, or to take other steps to render them inoperable."115 At the end of the week a sizeable minority still favored an air strike. As Robert Kennedy recalled: "The four- teen people involved were very significant. ... If six of them had been President of the U.S., I think that the world might have been blown up."1"6 What prevented the air strike was a for- tuitous coincidence of a number of factors-the absence of any one of which might have permit- ted that option to prevail. First, McNamara's vision of holocaust set him firmly against the air strike. His initial at- tempt to frame the issue in strategic terms struck Kennedy as particularly inappropriate. Once McNamara realized that the name of the game was a strong response, however, he and his deputy Gilpatric chose the blockade as a fall- back. When the Secretary of Defense-whose department had the action, whose reputation in the Cabinet was unequaled, in whom the Presi- dent demonstrated full confidence-marshalled 3' Ibid., p. 831.
- Fall '19
- Cuban Missile Crisis, analyst